Edvard Beneš

Edvard Beneš

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Edvard Beneš (ˈɛdvart ˈbɛnɛʃ) (28 May 1884 – 3 September 1948) was a leader of the Czechoslovak
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.

Youth


Edvard Beneš was born into a peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

 family in the small town of Kožlany
Kožlany
Kožlany is a small town in the Plzeň Region of the Czech Republic. It is located 30 km northeast of Plzeň.Edvard Beneš, the second president of Czechoslovakia, was born in Kožlany in 1884.-External links:* * * * * * *...

, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, ca. 60 km west of Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. He spent much of his youth in Vinohrady
Vinohrady
Vinohrady is a cadastral district in Prague. It is so named because the area was once covered in vineyards dating from the 14th century...

 district of Prague, where he attended a grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

 from 1896 to 1904.
During this time he played football for Slavia Prague. After studies at the Faculty of Philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 of the Charles University in Prague
Charles University in Prague
Charles University in Prague is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe and is also considered the earliest German university...

, he left for Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and continued his studies at the Sorbonne
Sorbonne
The Sorbonne is an edifice of the Latin Quarter, in Paris, France, which has been the historical house of the former University of Paris...

 and at the Independent School of Political and Social Studies
École Libre des Sciences Politiques
École Libre des Sciences Politiques , often referred to as the École des Sciences Politiques or simply Sciences Po was created in Paris in February 1872 by a group of European intellectuals, politicians and businessmen, which included Hippolyte Taine, Ernest Renan, Albert Sorel, Pierre Paul...

 (École Libre des Sciences Politiques). He completed his first degree in Dijon
Dijon
Dijon is a city in eastern France, the capital of the Côte-d'Or département and of the Burgundy region.Dijon is the historical capital of the region of Burgundy. Population : 151,576 within the city limits; 250,516 for the greater Dijon area....

, where he received his Doctorate of Laws in 1908. Then he taught for three years at the Prague Academy of Commerce, and after his habilitation in the field of philosophy in 1912, he became a lecturer in sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 at Charles University. He was involved in Scouting
Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

.

First exile


During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Beneš was one of the leading organizers of an independent Czechoslovakia abroad. He organized a Czech pro-independence anti-Austrian secret resistance movement called "Maffia". In September, 1915, he went into exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 where in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 he made intricate diplomatic efforts to gain recognition from France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 for the Czechoslovak independence movement, as he was from 1916–1918 a Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs within the Provisional Czechoslovak government.

Czechoslovakia


From 1918–1935, Beneš was first and the longest serving Foreign Minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

 of Czechoslovakia, and from 1920–1925 and 1929–1935 a member of the Parliament. He represented Czechoslovakia in talks of the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

. In 1921 he was a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 and also from 1921–1922 Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

. Between 1923–1927 he was a member of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 Council (serving as president of its committee from 1927–1928). He was a renowned and influential figure at international conferences, such as Genoa
Genoa Conference
The Genoa Conference was held in Genoa, Italy in 1922 from 10 April to 19 May. At this conference, the representatives of 34 countries convened to speak about monetary economics in the wake of World War I...

 1922, Locarno
Locarno Treaties
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war...

 1925, The Hague
Young Plan
The Young Plan was a program for settlement of German reparations debts after World War I written in 1929 and formally adopted in 1930. It was presented by the committee headed by American Owen D. Young. After the Dawes Plan was put into operation , it became apparent that Germany could not meet...

 1930, and Lausanne
Lausanne Conference of 1932
The Lausanne Conference was a 1932 meeting of representatives from Great Britain, Germany, and France that resulted in an agreement to suspend World War I reparations payments imposed on the defeated countries by the Treaty of Versailles...

 in 1932.

Beneš was a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (until 1925 called Czechoslovak Socialist Party) and a strong Czechoslovakist - he did not consider Slovaks
Slovaks
The Slovaks, Slovak people, or Slovakians are a West Slavic people that primarily inhabit Slovakia and speak the Slovak language, which is closely related to the Czech language.Most Slovaks today live within the borders of the independent Slovakia...

 and Czechs to be separate ethnicities.

In 1935, Beneš succeeded Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
Tomáš Masaryk
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk , sometimes called Thomas Masaryk in English, was an Austro-Hungarian and Czechoslovak politician, sociologist and philosopher, who as an eager advocate of Czechoslovak independence during World War I became the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia, also was...

 as President. He opposed Nazi Germany's claim to the German-speaking so-called Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 in 1938. In October, the Sudeten Crisis brought Europe on the brink of war, which was averted only as France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 signed the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

, which allowed for the immediate annexation and military occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany.

After this event, which proceeded without Czechoslovakian participation, Beneš was forced to resign on 5 October 1938 under German pressure and Emil Hácha
Emil Hácha
Emil Hácha was a Czech lawyer, the third President of Czecho-Slovakia from 1938 to 1939. From March 1939, he presided under the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.-Judicial career:...

 was chosen as President. In March 1939, Hácha's government was bullied into authorising the German occupation of the remaining territory of Czechia. (Slovakia had declared its independence by then.)

Second exile


On 22 October 1938 Beneš went into exile in Putney
Putney
Putney is a district in south-west London, England, located in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is situated south-west of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. In November 1940 in the wake of London Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

, Beneš, his wife, their nieces, and his household staff moved to The Abbey
The Abbey, Aston Abbotts
The Abbey, Aston Abbotts is a small country house in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. The house derived its name from being a property of St. Albans Abbey in the Middle Ages, and it belonged to the Dormer family from the Dissolution of the Monasteries until the early 19th century...

 at Aston Abbotts
Aston Abbotts
Aston Abbotts is a village and civil parish within Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England. It is situated about four miles north of Aylesbury and three miles south west of Wing. The parish had a population of 404 according to the 2001 census.The village name 'Aston' is a common one...

 near Aylesbury
Aylesbury
Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire in South East England. However the town also falls into a geographical region known as the South Midlands an area that ecompasses the north of the South East, and the southern extremities of the East Midlands...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

. The staff of his private office, including his Secretary Edvard Táborský and his chief of staff Jaromír Smutný, moved to The Old Manor House in the neighbouring village of Wingrave
Wingrave
Wingrave is a village in Buckinghamshire, England located about four miles north east of Aylesbury and three miles south west of Wing.The civil parish is called Wingrave with Rowsham within Aylesbury Vale district and incorporates the hamlet of Rowsham.Wingrave is twinned with La Bouëxière in...

, while his military intelligence staff headed by František Moravec
František Moravec
František Moravec was Czechoslovak military intelligence officer before and during World War II....

 was stationed in the nearby village of Addington
Addington, Buckinghamshire
Addington is a village and civil parish within Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England, about west of Winslow and south east of Buckingham. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 145....

.

In 1940 he organized the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile
Czechoslovak government-in-exile
The Czechoslovak government-in-exile was an informal title conferred upon the Czechoslovak National Liberation Committee, initially by British diplomatic recognition. The name came to be used by other World War II Allies as they subsequently recognized it...

 in London with Jan Šrámek
Jan Šrámek
Jan Šrámek was Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile from July 21, 1940 to April 5, 1945. He was the first chairman of the Czechoslovak People's Party and was a Monsignor....

 as Prime Minister and himself as President. In 1941 Beneš and František Moravec
František Moravec
František Moravec was Czechoslovak military intelligence officer before and during World War II....

 planned Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the targeted killing of top German SS leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was the chief of the Reich Main Security Office , the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and a chief planner of the Final Solution, the Nazi German programme for the genocide of the...

, with the intention of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

. This was implemented in 1942, and resulted in brutal German reprisals such as the execution of thousands of Czechs and the eradication of two villages of Lidice
Lidice
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just northwest of Prague. It is built on the site of a previous village of the same name which, as part of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was on orders from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal...

 and Ležáky
Ležáky
Ležáky was a village in Czechoslovakia. In 1942 it was razed to the ground by Nazis during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.Ležáky was a settlement inhabited by poor stone-cutters and little cottagers...

.

Although not a Communist, Beneš was also on friendly terms with Stalin. Believing that Czechoslovakia has more to gain from an alliance with the Soviet Union than in Poland, he torpedoed the plans for the Polish-Czechoslovakian confederation and in 1943 he signed the entente between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. According to British writer Nigel West's book on the Venona project
Venona project
The VENONA project was a long-running secret collaboration of the United States and United Kingdom intelligence agencies involving cryptanalysis of messages sent by intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union, the majority during World War II...

, Edvard Beneš was Soviet source codename "19". Identity of Soviet source codename "19" is unclear. Military historian Eduard Mark and American authors Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel concluded that source codename "19" was Roosevelt's aide Harry Hopkins
Harry Hopkins
Harry Lloyd Hopkins was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration , which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country...

. According to American authors John Earl Haynes
John Earl Haynes
John Earl Haynes is an American historian who is a specialist in 20th century political history in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress...

 and Harvey Klehr
Harvey Klehr
Harvey E. Klehr is a professor of politics and history at Emory University; he is known for his books on the subject of the American Communist movement, and on Soviet espionage in America ....

 source codename "19" could be someone from British delegation at the Washington Conference
Washington Conference (1943)
The Third Washington Conference was held in Washington, D.C. was a World War II strategic meeting from May 12 to May 27, 1943, between the heads of government of the United Kingdom and the United States. The delegations were headed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D...

 in May 1943.

Second presidency


After the Prague uprising
Prague uprising
The Prague uprising was an attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city of Prague from German occupation during World War II. Events began on May 5, 1945, in the last moments of the war in Europe...

 at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Beneš returned home and reassumed his former position as President. He was unanimously confirmed as the president of the republic by the National Assembly on 28 October 1945. Under article 58.5 of the Constitution, "The former president shall stay in his or her function till the new president shall be elected." On 19 June 1946 Beneš was formally elected to his second term as President.

The Beneš decrees
Beneš decrees
Decrees of the President of the Republic , more commonly known as the Beneš decrees, were a series of laws that were drafted by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in the absence of the Czechoslovak parliament during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II and issued by President...

(officially called "Decrees of the President of the Republic"), among other things, expropriated citizens of German
Sudeten Germans
- Importance of Sudeten Germans :Czechoslovakia was inhabited by over 3 million ethnic Germans, comprising about 23 percent of the population of the republic and about 29.5% of Bohemia and Moravia....

 and Hungarian ethnicity, and paved the way for the eventual expulsion of the majority of Germans to West and East Germany and Austria. The decrees are still in force to this day and remain controversial, with the expellees demanding their repeal. The Czech government's repeated assurances that the decrees are no longer applied have been accepted by the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 and the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

.

Beneš presided over a coalition government, from 1947 headed by Communist
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in Czech and in Slovak: Komunistická strana Československa was a Communist and Marxist-Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992....

 leader Klement Gottwald
Klement Gottwald
Klement Gottwald was a Czechoslovakian Communist politician, longtime leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia , prime minister and president of Czechoslovakia.-Early life:...

 as prime minister. On 25 February 1948, under pressure from Gottwald, Beneš appointed a Communist-dominated government--in effect, giving legal sanction to a Communist coup d'état
Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948
The Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948 – in Communist historiography known as "Victorious February" – was an event late that February in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed undisputed control over the government of Czechoslovakia, ushering in over four decades...

.

Shortly afterward, the Communist-dominated National Assembly drafted the Ninth-of-May Constitution
Ninth-of-May Constitution
The Ninth-of-May Constitution was a constitution of Czechoslovakia in force from 1948 to 1960. It came into force on May 9, shortly after the communist seizure of power in the country on 25 February 1948. It replaced the 1920 Constitution...

. Rather than sign it, Beneš resigned as President on 7 June 1948 and Gottwald succeeded him.

Death


Beneš had been in poor health since suffering two strokes in 1947, and he was rendered a broken man after seeing a situation come about that he'd made his life's work to avoid. He died of natural causes at his villa in Sezimovo Ústí
Sezimovo Ústí
Sezimovo Ústí is a town in the South Bohemian Region, Czech Republic. It is located approximately 83 km south of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, and 60 km north of České Budějovice, the capital of the South Bohemian Region....

, Czechoslovakia on 3 September 1948. He is interred along with his wife (who lived until December 2, 1974) in the garden of his villa and his bust is part of the gravestone.

External links